The alley behind the shops on Tisbury Court smelled of refuse and urine. At nine o’clock on a June evening it was just growing dark, and after the warm, humid day the stench was overpowering.
Dr. Edward Atherton did not want his first sexual experience to be with a prostitute, but time was running out. His birthday was approaching at the speed of a Formula One race car, and as his sister had so succinctly put it just the other day, “If you don’t get your end away soon, Bro, you’ll join the ranks of the world’s biggest losers. You’ll be a thirty-year-old virgin. And that is well depressing.
Scratching sounds from a large cardboard box twenty feet farther on brought Edward’s attention back to the moment. His heart pounding, he stood rigidly still. Laboratory rats in plastic cages were manageable. He dealt with those every day in his work. But undomesticated rats in a Soho alley were terrifying.
Slowly a dark figure rose from the box. Edward stopped breathing completely for at least thirty seconds, only gasping for a labored breath when he realized he was about to faint. The shadowed outline took form, and he saw with relief that it was not a giant rat but a person. The relief was momentary. Was he about to get mugged or beaten to a barely recognizable pulp? Every possible scenario ran through his brain, including a headline in the Mitton Monthly Review
. LOCAL MAN MUGGED IN SOHO ALLEY AFTER SOLICITING MALE PROSTITUTE.
If he survived the incident, his parents would kill him.
“Twenty quid for a suck. Fifteen for a wank.” The voice was male and sounded young.
“Erm…” Edward’s brain wouldn’t function. Wasn’t this what he wanted—sex…with a man?
“Make up your mind, mate. I haven’t got all night,” the figure said.
The accent was rather like Nik’s recently acquired one, slightly cockney, but at the same time pleasing.
“Yes, all right, but must we do it here?” Edward whispered.
“Yes, all right, what?” The young man imitated Edward’s accent. “A wank or a suck?”
Confused by the sudden turn of events, Edward hesitated. “I’m not sure.”
“He’s not sure. And he doesn’t want to do it in a back alley. Do you have a suite at the Dorchester Hotel, mate?” The young man was beginning to sound impatient, causing Edward to fear he would lose the opportunity.
It was only lately Edward had been able to detect sarcasm, and only if it was blatant, but he wasn’t at all adept at witty comebacks. “No, but I have a flat in a house on Great Russell Street. It’s only half an hour’s walk.”
“Bloomsbury? Very posh.” The boy stepped out of the box, slinging a backpack on his shoulder. “Let’s go. But you’re paying me for the exercise as well. Add on another ten quid.”
“Certainly.” Edward fell into step beside the young man. “What’s your name?”
They emerged from the dark alley into the street. Nervous, Edward glanced sideways. In the light of the street lamps he saw a very thin, very pale young man with short black hair that was longer on top and spiked up. His clothing was all black. Around his eyes he wore thick black eyeliner. “Are you a Goth?”
“What if I am?” Fox asked.
Edward had often found groups of Goths on the street to look quite frightening, but he didn’t feel afraid of Fox despite his awareness that taking a complete stranger home for sex was probably not his wisest move. “Just asking.” They continued on in silence to Great Russell Street. Struggling for something to say when they neared his flat, Edward piped up, “Charles Dickens lived on this street, you know.”
“No shit. Is he still here?”
Confused, Edward looked at him. “Dickens died in 1870.”
“I know. It was a joke.”
“Yes, of course.” Edward opened the front door and led the way up the long, narrow, uncarpeted staircase to his flat. It was expensive despite being only a living room with a small bedroom, an even smaller kitchen, and a tiny bathroom that could accommodate only a shower, a toilet, and a sink crammed together so closely that he could shave while sitting on the loo. Edward flipped on the standing lamp beside the front door. “Would you like a cup of tea or perhaps something to eat? Ham sandwich?”
The black-rimmed eyes were a startling blue. In the light from the lamp Edward noted again the young man’s slenderness, his thin face and straight, dark eyebrows. His hair appeared to be dyed.
“I’m a vegan. A wank or a suck?” He glanced around the living room as he spoke. “It’s a bit messy, isn’t it? Don’t you ever tidy up?”
Edward was not usually prone to a bad temper. In fact it took him ages to get annoyed with even the most annoying people he knew, but the remark seemed ill placed given that he had just picked the young man up in a filthy, foul-smelling alley. “You’re hardly one to talk. You live in a box.”
Fox wandered about the flat, looking at things. “Yeah, well, I’m still getting my act together.”
“What act? Do you perform?”
Fox looked at him for half a second. “You are weird, mate.” Strolling over to the couch, he removed the latest copy of Science magazine, tossed it onto the cluttered coffee table, and sat down with his feet on top of the magazine. “Got any beer?”
Edward hurried to the kitchen to grab two cans of Stella Artois from the fridge. Anything to avoid getting to the sex thing. He wanted the sex; he just didn’t know where to start. “Oh God, what am I going to do?” Turning abruptly with the beers, he bumped chests with Fox, who stood in the doorway of the minute kitchen. “Ahh! You scared the life out of me. I thought you were on the couch.”
Fox took a can from his hand and popped the ring pull. “You are so weird.”
“Yes, you keep saying that.” Edward followed him back to the living room, where the young man thumbed through the CD collection and put on, surprisingly, Handel’s Water Music
. He sat down again, put his feet up on the coffee table, and looked at Edward.
“What’s your name?”
“Edward Jolyon Atherton. Is Fox your real name?”
“Yeah.” Fox drained the can while Edward looked intently at the young man’s smooth white throat. For the first time since this dubious encounter started, he felt the stirrings of arousal. His willy began to lengthen, and a flutter of panic gripped his belly. I shouldn’t have done this. He could be a serial killer or a vampire or something. I don’t even know what I want.
As if he had read his mind, Fox asked, “So what do you want?” He tossed the empty can onto the coffee table.
“I don’t know,” Edward admitted.
With a huge sigh the young man crossed his arms, leaned back, and closed his eyes. “Wake me up when you’ve decided.”
For more than twenty minutes Edward sipped his beer as he watched Fox sleep. The poor thing must be exhausted. What did he do on rainy nights sleeping outdoors? It would be impossible to get any real rest. And he was so pale and thin. He couldn’t be very healthy.
Suddenly a fear of STDs gripped Edward. It wasn’t so much getting one; there were excellent medications for such things. It was the idea of going to the doctor to be diagnosed. His mother was always terrified of what the neighbors thought, and he seemed to have picked it up from her. At about age twelve he’d heard his mother whispering on the phone to her sister that she had a bladder infection and didn’t want to go to the family doctor in case he thought she’s been up to something dirty. She’d suffered for weeks before finally sneaking into a Drop-In Clinic in the nearest big town while they were out doing the weekly food shopping. Nik had been eighteen months old at the time, an absolute terror, and he’d had to chase her round the waiting room while his mum, her face scarlet, went in to be examined.
On tiptoe Edward fetched a blanket from the bedroom. He draped it over the young man and then switched off the living room light. In the bathroom he stripped, brushed his teeth, and took a quick shower. Passing through the living room on his way to the bedroom, he stopped briefly to look at Fox, who had not moved except that his mouth was open, and his head had tilted to one side. The boy looked so tired and vulnerable, and he was fast asleep. This was hardly the wild first encounter with a rentboy Edward had anticipated. The urge to sidle over and adjust the blanket was just strong enough that he couldn’t resist it. It wasn’t cold, but Edward felt better when he pulled the blanket up to the boy’s chin.
With one last regretful look, he went into the bedroom. Leaving the door open, he slid between the sheets before taking off his glasses and placing them carefully on the bedside table. Is he going to wake up and kill me, then rob the place?
He looked again at the door, a blur without his specs. He’d never been terribly sensitive to the inner workings of other people’s minds, but the sense he got from Fox was of a young man who was rather lost. A lost boy.
Within minutes he too was fast asleep.
Edward had no idea what time it was or what exactly had awakened him. Rolling onto his back, he saw a dark shadow standing over the bed and released a strangled cry.
“God, Eddie, you are so weird.”
“Yeah. Is there someone else here that I missed when we came in?”
Sarcasm again? “No, I just wasn’t expecting to see you standing there. What do you want? Are you hungry? I don’t eat at home very often, but I have some Pot Noodles and ham.”
Edward maneuvered his long, lean body to one side while Fox climbed in, pulling the duvet up. Without actually touching him, Edward knew the young man was naked. His cock reacted again, and he swallowed hard. Was this it? Was he finally going to get his thirty pounds’ worth? Not that he’d paid yet. He wasn’t even sure he had that much cash on him. Imagine going to the hole-in-the-wall to get out money to pay a prostitute. It didn’t bear thinking about. Everyone would know. It would be on his ATM withdrawal statement. Thirty pounds…prostitute. “No, it wouldn’t.”
“What wouldn’t?” Fox asked.
Had he said that out loud? “Nothing.”
“You’re scared, aren’t you?” Fox asked.
He might as well be honest. He’d never been good at lying anyway. “Yes, I’m terrified. I’ve never done this before.”
“Brought home a prostie?”
Relief flooded him. He hated admitting he’d never had sex. “No, never.”
“You’ve never had sex either, have you?”
Why not just humiliate himself completely and be done with it? In a quiet voice, he replied, “No, I haven’t.”
“Bloody hell, mate, how old are you?”
“I’ll be thirty soon, June twenty-first to be precise. What about you?”
“I’m nineteen, just turned.”
“I suppose you’ve done this before?” He could have kicked himself. The young man was a prostitute. Of course he’d done it before, probably with dozens of men.
Fox did not respond but simply moved closer until their bodies touched. A ragged breath tore from Edward’s throat. He lay rigid on his back, afraid to move, while Fox lay on his side so close to him that his chest pressed against Edward’s right arm and his hollow belly curved over Edward’s hip bone. Every contact point burned Edward’s skin. The warmth and proximity of Fox’s body was the most sensual experience he had ever had. Blood filled his penis as it grew thick and hot.
With one foot Fox kicked the duvet back and then threw his leg over Edward’s. He closed his hand around Edward’s penis. The cry that erupted from Edward’s chest both shocked and embarrassed him. It filled the room so completely that when it ceased, the silence was sudden and heavy. “Sorry,” he whispered.
“Dude, take a chill pill,” Fox said calmly.
Squeezing firmly, the young man began a slow, steady massage up and down the length of Edward’s willy. Scarcely able to breathe for a moment, Edward forced himself to take a long breath and allow his stiff muscles to soften. The heat of the hand on his shaft and the enticing warmth of the boy beside him made self-control impossible. His pleasure escalated swiftly, concentrating in his penis and testicles until they felt ready to explode. The only orgasms he had ever experienced were self-inflicted, and they did not come close to the magnitude of the one that rocked his body under the fast-moving hand of this pale young stranger.
Unable to stifle his cries, Edward gave them full vent, even as his hips rose up from the bed and thumped down again repeatedly until his pleasure subsided.
Breathing heavily, Edward lay still while his body vibrated from head to foot. At least it felt like it was vibrating, but he was actually more tranquil and peaceful than he had ever been in his life. Even his thoughts, often confused and erratic when not dealing with scientific formulas, seemed ordered. For a moment everything made sense. The world was falling into place.
“How was that, Eddie?” Fox’s words were so full of sureness that, had Edward been able to make out his features in the dark, he was certain he would catch the young man smiling.
“Excellent, thank you.” A rumble of laughter erupted from Fox, but Edward had no idea what was so funny. “No one’s ever called me Eddie before, except my sister.”
Fox dragged the duvet back over them, wiping his hand on his hip as he did so. “What does your mum and dad call you?”
“Edward, and they call my sister Nicoletta. Neither of them are the type to use pet names. What do your parents call you?” A pause alerted Edward to a possible faux pas. “Oh, I’m sorry. You don’t live with them. You live in a box.”
“Good job my name’s not Jack, isn’t it?”
Edward turned on his side to face Fox. “Why?” Suddenly he got it. “Oh!” For several minutes he clutched his stomach, laughter racking his body until he realized Fox was not laughing and began to wonder if he had been inappropriate. Abruptly he stopped. “Sorry, did I offend you?”
“Eddie, you are so—”
But Edward cut him off. “Weird. Yes, so you said. But it was a joke, wasn’t it? Jack in the box?”
“Yeah. It just wasn’t that funny. I mean, it was funnyish, but not belly-laughing funny.”
“Oh.” He’d done that before, laughed hysterically at something everyone else thought only vaguely amusing and then not laughed at all when everyone else was in stitches. Why was life so awkward, so difficult to understand? “What about Fox in a box?”
Fox giggled. “That is quite funny.”
“Is it? Do you want me to do something to you?”
“I’m the rentboy, remember?” Fox said.